11 Tools for Aggro Decks to Beat Board Sweepers

January 5, 2013 | Posted by Dee

You’re on the draw with an aggro deck versus a control deck but you’ve got a good start in your opening hand. You go through your mana curve perfectly and develop your board while your opponent hasn’t cast a single spell.

Turn one, one-drop. Turn two, two-drop. Turn three, three-drop. Things are looking good for you. You’ve got a significant presence on the board in just three turns.

Then “Kaboom!”

Your opponent casts Supreme Verdict and wipes out your team.


The three-for-one card disadvantage is too hard to overcome and you quickly lose. All from one stinking board sweeper.

Have you experienced this before? If you have, you’re definitely not the only one. It’s a common occurrence whenever an aggro deck goes up against a control deck.

Whatever you want to call them, board wipe spells, board sweepers, wraths, or mass removal spells, they are the bane of aggro decks.

Fortunately, we have tools to fight these annoying cards. Here are a couple ways to get the upper hand against them.

1. Indestructibility

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Creatures that can’t be destroyed shrug off most mass removal spells. There are exceptions like Terminus but that card is not too big of a concern. It’s expensive at six mana without miracle.

Also, you don’t have to stick with just creatures. You can play Rootborn Defenses, which makes all your creatures indestructible for a turn.

2. Regeneration

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Regeneration is similar to indestructibility because it keeps your creatures from dying to destroy effects. However, you usually have to spend mana to regenerate a creature.

Again, you can go to non-creature spells to find this ability. For example, Golgari Charm regenerates all your creatures for only two mana.

3. Undying

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On occasion, Wizards will create a new ability that’s good against board sweepers. Right now, we’ve got undying, which is pretty awesome because you get a bigger version of the creature after it dies.

In the past, you had persist (Kitchen Finks) and unearth (Sedraxis Specter).

4. Haste

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Haste is good against wraths because most of them are sorcery speed. Haste allows you to hit your opponent before he has a chance to clear the board.

With enough high power haste creatures, you can deal enough damage to kill your opponent even though he has a board sweeper.

Here’s an extreme example but I think it illustrates my point. Let’s say it’s the midgame and both of you have zero cards in hand and 20 life. You have four Thundermaw Hellkites on top of your library. Your opponent has four Supreme Verdicts on top of his. You’ll both draw your powerful cards but you’ll win because of haste.

5. Burn

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Aggro decks are able to attack for a lot of damage quickly, but they often have problems dealing those last points of damage if they get hit with a board wipe spell.

Once a control player deals with the initial aggro rush, he can stabilize with card advantage spells, pinpoint removal, and finishers to win the game.

However, if you have enough burn spells, you can keep this from happening by just sending them to your opponent’s face. For example, if your opponent is at six life and you have two Searing Spears, a Supreme Verdict and an Ultimate Price is not going to stop you from killing him.

The burn strategy doesn’t work as well these days because there are a lot of good life gain cards in Standard. However, there is a sweet anti life gain card in Gatecrash that will make burn spells more effective.

6. Counterspells

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Counterspells are much weaker against board sweepers in the current Standard format because Supreme Verdict can’t be countered. But they have been solid in past seasons.

Once Supreme Verdict leaves Standard, I imagine that counterspells will be good again at stopping board wipes.

7. Discard

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Supreme Verdict can’t be countered, but that doesn’t mean you can’t strip it from your opponent’s hand. Cards like Duress and Appetite for Brains are cheap ways to preemptively stop your opponent from wrecking your board.

8. Manlands

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I had to pick a card that’s not Standard legal because there are no manlands in current Standard. Historically these lands have been good against mass removal spells because the spells are usually sorceries. Manlands can be immune to them because you can choose not to turn them into creatures on your opponent’s turn.

While we don’t have manlands in Standard today, we do have a decent substitute in “man-artifacts” or Keyrunes. Unlike manlands, they cost mana to put on the board but in return, you get mana ramp and fixing.

9. Permanent Card Advantage

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Casting a mass removal spell usually results in card disadvantage for the aggro player so having a permanent way to gain card advantage is a good way to recoup the loss of cards.

One of the best examples in Standard is Garruk, Primal Hunter. He is one of the best anti-control cards for green heavy aggro decks. If you want to keep up the pressure, he can summon a 3/3 Beast token every turn. If you want to draw a bunch of cards, you can activate his second ability.

For other decks, you can play cards like Underworld Connections or Triumph of Ferocity to give yourself a permanent source of card draw.

10. Recursion

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Some aggro creatures have the ability to come back from the graveyard so they are pretty sweet against board sweepers. The poster child for this ability in Standard is Gravecrawler. He’s already pretty good as a two power creature for one mana. Add his recursion ability and you get one of the best aggro creatures in Standard.

In past Standard seasons, Bloodghast is a good example of this kind of creature.

11. Disruption

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There are cards that don’t fit neatly in the other categories so I put them here.

If you have a fast enough deck, disrupting your opponent’s mana becomes a solid way to beat board wipe spells. For example, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben buys you one turn before your opponent can clear the board by forcing him to spend one more mana. The extra attack step is often enough to win you the game.

Plus, she’s just a good anti-control card in general because control decks play a lot of non-creature spells.

You can disrupt your opponent by not allowing him to cast his board sweeper. For example, Nevermore set on Supreme Verdict can go a long way to winning you the game.

Slaughter Games gives you a similar effect. However, I don’t like it in aggro decks because it costs four mana. The one mana difference between Nevermore and Slaughter Games is huge for an aggro deck that wants to kill quickly.

In previous formats, you had Gaddock Teeg. This creature kept non-creature spells with converted mana cost four or greater from being cast. He was great because the best mass removal spells usually cost four or more.

Your Turn

How do you beat mass removal spells?

7 Responses to “11 Tools for Aggro Decks to Beat Board Sweepers”

  1. yagi on January 8th, 2013 8:53 pm

    keyrunes? although the one played in standard now is only rakdos keyrune.

  2. Del on January 10th, 2013 9:19 pm

    Each guild has a keyrune that can change into a creature with a ability common/affiliated it’s own guild like deathtouch for golgari.

  3. Michael nelson on May 15th, 2013 6:21 am

    Parallel lives, with creatures like voice of resurgence, and token spells like advent of the worm work.

  4. Dee on May 15th, 2013 11:04 pm

    Good ideas. I’m actually writing an article right now about G/W Populate.

  5. Ty on March 31st, 2014 2:41 am

    Mostly by threatening my opponents with physical harm…also why I only play casual – because I suck.

  6. jwiggi on June 12th, 2015 6:05 pm

    okay, some of these are nice to know. now, what if the board sweeper is Bearer of Heavens? is there a way to get rid of it without activating it’s ability? or counter the ability?

  7. Amber on October 24th, 2015 9:09 pm

    I made a pretty decent mono-white deck actually, with prowess and Pacifism, that held its own against my ex’s ‘fairly expensive dragon deck’ that he was bragging about. I never spent a dime on my deck, because all the cards were from free drafts the local club put on… all the cards went well together. :3

    I’m currently making a deck that uses a lot of dash, or with creatures like Enthralling Victor, that when it comes out I get to yoink a creature that’s already on the field with 2 power and give it haste for the turn, so that it’s like a two-fer temporarily…

    And then there’s Act of Treason, where I can just yoink another creature of ANY power/toughness for the turn… very useful in multi-man when someone is playing aggro, someone else is playing control, and I haven’t gotten anything out yet. :3